The University Grants Commissions has recently given out guidelines to be followed by college authorities and universities while they get ready to reopen campuses for students this year.
Greatly detailed by the UGC, these guidelines are regarding the conduct of students on campus as well as the maintenance of COVID-19 precautionary measures by colleges and universities.
As universities and colleges have stayed closed since March and have not yet developed a concrete strategy for reopening, the UGC guidelines will prove to be the foundation for their safe reopening.
According to the UGC guidelines, any college that wishes to reopen needs to first abide by government rules for COVID-19 prevention and must check if the state of its location has allowed educational institutions to reopen.
The universities and colleges have to alter their work process according to the state and central government guidelines and, if necessary, can implement stricter guidelines on campus keeping in view the safety and health of their students and staff.
UGC has further denied permission to reopen colleges and universities located in containment zones. Students and staff of the colleges who reside in the containment zone will not be visiting the campus. Students and faculty living away from containment zones will be advised not to visit containment zones to avoid the risk of COVID-19 infection.
Under the UGC guidelines for reopening, students and faculty of different colleges and universities will be downloading the Aarogya Setu App to monitor the presence of COVID-19 cases around them and safeguard themselves through surveillance.
Before reopening for students, the universities and colleges need to ensure that they create a virus-free bubble for students to study in. Proper screening procedure, monitoring of individuals, and controlling the entry and exit points of the campus has to be followed. The campus has to be disinfected regularly to ensure that people there remain safe from the threat of the deadly coronavirus. Colleges should be prepared to isolate infected individuals in case of detection, and then they should create isolation and containment zones for the treatment of COVID-19 patients on campus.
In the event of a mass infection of COVID-19 and the need to close the campus again arises, the college and university authorities need to be ready with an alternative plan to function smoothly.
For centrally funded higher education institutions, the head of the institute has to take a call on resuming physical classes, while state government funded educational institutes need adhere to the decisions of the state government.
Higher education institutes are allowed to reopen in a phased manner, allowing smaller groups of students and staff on campus so that it is easy to monitor and control their movement and interactions under the COVID-19 guidelines.
As for students, post graduate students and research scholars will be given preference for physical classes and practical sessions as they are fewer in number than other groups of undergraduates and higher secondary level students.
Even at the undergraduate level, final year students who need to be on campus for dissertation and placement purposes will be allowed rather than the junior years.
The implementation of the UGC guidelines require a great degree of institutional planning and traffic moderation to create safe campuses for the students and staff of the universities and colleges post reopening.